Tips on Wrestling in the Heat
New wrestlers rarely consider the effects of heat during training and competition. However, this is a crucial subject. It’s common for wrestlers to train in wrestling rooms with the heat on high, or to compete in muggy gyms during the hottest summer months. These are just two scenarios that will undoubtedly have a negative impact on your performance — and your health — if you do not take the necessary precautions to regulate your body temperature and fluid levels. This guide will teach you about certain situations in which extreme heat comes into play, and how to stay safe and perform to the best of your ability.
Tip #1: Pre-hydrate
Although hydration is always essential for your health and performance, it is especially critical to be aware of your water intake in extreme heat. In such cases, pre-hydrating — consuming fluids long before you exercise — is extremely important. It’s recommended to start consuming fluids at least two hours before training or competition, especially in warmer temperatures.
Try to consume at least 16 ounces of fluid during your pre-hydration routine. Water is the best to hydrate with for shorter workouts, but if you are competing or training for longer than one hour, it’s also good to consume sports drinks. The amount of sodium and carbohydrates in a sports drink will help you sustain your level of hydration and energy for longer periods of time in extreme heat.
Hot Tip: Caffeine & Alcohol
Youth wrestlers should stay away from caffeinated beverages before and during periods of exercise in extreme heat. Likewise, adult wrestlers should refrain from drinking any alcohol during training periods. These types of drinks will easily dehydrate you!
Also, eating foods that have high levels of water, mainly fruits and vegetables, will help you maintain a sufficient hydration level. This is especially important if you are at a summer wrestling camp because there will be plenty of food like this to fill up on.
Eating salty foods can benefit you when it’s hot, as well. Eating foods with higher sodium contents before exercising will help you retain the water you drink. For best results, consume the salty foods long in advance. Try eating them the night before or morning of your workout. Here are few examples of healthier foods that are high in sodium:
- Cottage cheese
- Pretzels, saltines, etc.
- Beef jerky
- Cold cut meats
Tip #2: Hydrate
It’s also recommended to consume about eight ounces of fluids on a consistent basis when you are actively exercising; every 15 to 30 minutes is best. The hotter it is and the harder you work will dictate how much and how often you will need to rehydrate. Remember, you should be consuming 48 to 64 ounces of fluids daily, anyway, so you will typically need more than this when the temperatures rise.
In short, drink consistently and take full advantage of your water breaks! Listen to your body. If you experience any of the following symptoms of dehydration, you need to increase your fluid intake:
- Headache or lightheadedness
- Dry skin
- Decreased urine output
- Dense, dark urine
Tip #3: Dress Appropriately
Another common practice amongst wrestlers who cut weight is layering their clothing in order to induce sweating. This typically involves wearing sweats and windbreakers over several layers of clothing. If at all possible, try to maintain your weight so you do not have to go to such measures. However, if done responsibly, this shouldn’t be much of a health issue.
Firstly, only layer when necessary. At wrestling tournaments, camps, and other events that take place during the summer months, it’s important to acknowledge the heat and dress appropriately. In such scenarios, layering shouldn’t be necessary to increase your core temperature during a warm-up, or when attempting to cut weight. In these situations, a T-shirt and shorts should be just fine.
If you are attempting to cut weight, layer for a purpose. You shouldn’t keep thick layers on for long periods of time. For example, if your goal is to break a heavy sweat to lose some water weight, wear a sweatshirt until you start sweating heavily, and then take it off and continue exercising to keep your sweat going. Don’t leave on the extra layers longer than necessary.
Hot Tip: Sauna Suits
Known by many names, including “sauna suits” or simply “plastics,” these “outfits” are essentially articles of clothing that are designed to dehydrate the body so a wrestler can lose water weight faster. This type of clothing is illegal in every style of wrestling because they are unsafe to use — sauna suits have been connected with cases of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Furthermore, if you need to go to such extremes to make a weight class, you should clearly not be competing there.
Also, try not to wear any kind of hat or cap unless you are in the direct sun and need to cover your head or face. Covering your head will increase your core temperature because it will cause your body to retain heat, rather than cool down. It is especially important to not wear your headgear and head coverings for extended periods of time; try to remove them periodically (during breaks, for example) so you don’t overheat.
Tip #4: Regulate Room Temperature
Wrestlers routinely use heated spaces, such as wrestling rooms, in order to speed up the process of dehydration to allow them to lose weight faster. If done correctly and certain precautions are followed (described below), training in a heated room to lose weight is relatively safe. However, when wrestlers and coaches use heated spaces irresponsibly, severe dehydration and overheating comes into play.
Inexperienced wrestlers have a tendency to crank up the heater higher than necessary, following the logic that the higher the temperature, the better. However, it is easy to make a space too hot. Essentially, if you must work out in a heated space, do so for short periods of time. Try not to work out in a hot room for more than 30 minutes at a time, and take consistent breaks so you can rehydrate and cool down. The temperature in a room should be no higher than about 85 to 90 degrees. Even if you are able to handle higher temperatures, it is not recommended.
Also, as mentioned in the previous tip, dress appropriately. If you’re in a heated space, wear lighter clothing, such as a T-shirt and shorts, and stay away from thick sweatshirts and windbreakers.
The same logic should be followed when competing in a hot gym that does not have air conditioning. You cannot regulate the temperature in the gym yourself, so make sure you spend most of your time outside of the facility— where it is cooler — when you are not wrestling.
Tip #5: Recognize Heat Exhaustion
If precautions are not taken to regulate your body temperature, you may experience heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs in two ways: When a wrestler loses too much water or electrolytes. Heat exhaustion is most commonly associated with cutting weight because a wrestler will often continue to exercises despite an increased body temperature and symptoms of dehydration. Below are the most common symptoms of heat exhaustion:
- Heavy sweating
- Muscle cramps
- Rapid, weak heartbeat
- Dark-colored urine
Furthermore, it’s important that you treat heat exhaustion immediately when you recognize the signs. If heat exhaustion is left untreated, it may progress to heatstroke, which is an extremely serious condition. To treat moderate symptoms of heat exhaustion, follow these recommendations:
- Rest in cool or air conditioned areas
- Drink cold fluids
- Remove unnecessary clothing
- Take a cool shower or bath
If symptoms worsen despite treatment, or if you are experiencing severe heat exhaustion, you must seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Take the Precautions
Dealing with the heat during wrestling season isn’t difficult if you take the necessary precautions to keep yourself safe. Preventative care is the key to dealing with high temperatures because it is often too late to quickly regulate your fluid levels and body temperature when you’re already overheated and dehydrated. Use the knowledge in this guide to help you prepare for the heat long before you experience it. Good luck and stay safe!